Parents naturally want the best for their little ones, and as such, most understand the importance of nurturing a healthy, balanced approach to nutrition in their children. That being said, picky eaters will be picky eaters, and it’s difficult to know where to begin when it comes to feeding your child the right foods at times.

“Children who don’t receive the nutrition and healthcare they need miss out on opportunities to learn and develop their cognitive capabilities. This is why Rays of Hope believes that good nutrition is the foundation needed for building brighter futures for the children of Alexandra township. Through our various programmes, including our Akanani ECD centre, the goal is to ensure that every child’s right to good nutrition is being met, as part of a broader, holistic approach to promoting the overall wellbeing of the child,” says Bafana Mohale, Learning & Development Lead at Rays of Hope.

A child’s nutritional needs are the same, whether they live under circumstances of extreme poverty and vulnerability like most of the children in Alex, or not. As such, the following nutritional advice (based on guidelines from The World Health Organization (WHO)) is useful for every parent, caregiver, educator, or anyone responsible for the nutritional and/or overall wellbeing of a child.

  1. Feed them the rainbow.

The first foods that children eat are often lacking in diversity and tend to be low in energy and nutrients. From the age of six months, meals should be nutrient-dense and comprised of a variety of food groups.

  1. Carb check.

Young children’s diets are frequently comprised of grains and starches in the main, with little fruit, vegetables, eggs, dairy, fish or meat. Many children are also fed sugary drinks and packaged snacks that are unfortunately high in salt, sugar and fat. For picky eaters who won’t even try a veggie in its natural form, hidden veggie recipes may do the trick. 

  1. Nutritious alternatives.

Where nutritious diets are out of reach, as is often the case in the Alexandra community, micronutrient powders and fortified foods, like snack bars, dairy and plant-based milk alternatives, and pre-prepared baby foods offer good alternatives to help improve the nutrient quality of children’s diets.

  1. Create an enabling environment.

To nurture positive relationships with food in children, adults must model healthy eating behaviours themselves. Swopping junk food for home-cooked meals, and sugary treats for healthier alternatives, helps set a better example for children to learn from.

Ensuring children’s nutritional needs are met in the early years can be challenging for many reasons, but it is especially so for parents who are not always able to secure enough nutritious, safe, affordable and age-appropriate food for their children.

How can you help?

You can help by sponsoring an Alexandra child – a R1,000 investment per month will not only ensure each child has at least one healthy, nutritional meal a day, but also enables them to take advantage of Rays of Hope’s psychosocial, learning and development, and family care programmes too.

Sign up to sponsor a child now.